11 September 2009

Hetzelsdorfer Bier, ein Fränkisches Vollbier

Much like many German wines, this beer label is a mass of words set in lovely yet severe Fraktur script. Have you ever tried to translate anything in German printed before 1940? Don't. The Germans set everything in this harsh calligraphy: newspapers, books, posters, etc. Many individual letters were ambiguous. The handwriting form was worse, something left over from the Middle Ages. Check out this example of old Handschrift, bearing in mind that the writer is using the exact same Roman alphabet I'm using on this website.

Here's the breakdown on the name:

Fränkisches translates in English to Franconian, referring to an area of northern Bavaria (in the south of Germany) known as Franconia or land of the Franks (ancestral French).

Vollbier means "full beer", a tax category that applies to practically all German beers.

Hetzelsdorfer required a bit of research. It's the name of the brewery, but it means "from the village of Hetzel". Hetzel is a diminutive of Hermann, and refers to either a woodcutter or a stubborn person. Take your pick.

Bier simply means beer, by far the simplest part of this whole damn post.

It pours a beautiful dark amber with a thin head. Nutty and tangy, with a slight orange marmalade aroma. Medium bitter, with a nice bite on the finish. Most importantly, this beer has an elegant, refined quality. Like the difference between a cheap sparkling wine and a really well-made Champagne.

The bottle is interesting, bearing the scars of glass that has been washed and refilled several times rather than ground up and recycled. You don't see this in the US very much, unless you pick up a bottle of Mexican Coke or another niche import. I suppose it's a brand maintenance thing; despite the cost savings and environmental benefits, nobody wants to have the only scratched glass on the shelf.

The brewery website doesn't appear to have been touched since 2003 and contains no information. Fortunately other sites exist.

Thanks to friend Dave R. for bringing this back from Germany; his long service in the United States Army has provided me with a steady supply of such treasures over the years.


fredric koeppel said...

German wine labels used to be a nightmare for non-German speaking and reading Americans; the plethora of rules and regulations that have to be covered on labels was daunting, not to mention that difficult script and typography. much of that has been relegated to a kind of shorthand now, and younger producers are creating more contemporary elegant, consumer-friendly labels

Benito said...


It's nice to see them loosening up a bit. From a long rant by Eddie Izzard:

And Germany and Japan, they do seem to have a natural instinct in a very generalized way for organization and being military, but, you know, there's a very strong Green Party there now, kids with beards, it's getting okay, and I just think Japan and Germany should be the peacekeepers of the world. They should be parachuted in; whenever something breaks out, parachute Germans and Japanese in. They'll go, "Look, we've done this before, we've done the killing. Hello! Take it from us, just chill out!" And then, they'd organize peace really quickly. "All right, peace, peace, peace, peace is organized!" It could be brilliant if they could do that. That's their destiny, man! Yeah.


fredric koeppel said...

uh, right.